When Alex and Anna Kolodjashnij fled Soviet controlled Ukraine shortly after World War II Australian Rules football would have been the furthest thing from their minds.
On Thursday, their twin grandsons Kade and Jake Kolodjashnij are expected to be selected in the AFL National Draft.
Kade is tipped to be a top-five pick, with his slightly older non-identical twin brother Jake to be plucked a little later.
Kade, a 190cm, 81kg running back, has dazzled all this year, earning All-Australian selection, the division two national championships best and fairest award (shared with another Tasmanian, Toby Nankervis) and an outstanding draft combine in Melbourne.
In an era that has produced dual Coleman Medallist Jack Riewoldt and dual-premiership half-back Grant Birchall, AFL Tasmania head coach Mathew Armstrong rates Kade as the best at under-18 level.
“He’s probably the most consistent and most rounded player I’ve seen,” Armstrong said.
“I certainly think Kade at under-18 level is the best performed consistently, that would be fair.”
Jake, 192cm and 90kg, has not earned the same individual accolades but has also impressed as an athletic tall defender with great physical attributes.
Theirs is a name that will have commentators tongue-tied for years, but in its native Ukraine it is apparently as common as Smith or Jones and one that is set to make a big impact on the AFL.
The family does not know too much about their Ukrainian history, with dad Paul saying his deceased parents spoke very little about the war years or their homeland.
“Not long after the war dad left, he would have been well into his 40s,” Paul said.
“Dad got conscripted into the war, he had to do his time there and he didn’t have a choice. Then the war ended and he stayed on for a while. He got billeted in and stayed with some people and travelled and eventually made his way out to Australia.
“They didn’t talk to us about what happened and how it came about. We didn’t get to find out a lot.”
The 18-year-old twins grew up playing soccer and basketball, with both taking up football at 13 at the invitation of a mutual friend.
Living next to an oval in the Launceston suburb of Prospect, the boys honed their skills.
They shared a room until they moved to a new house when they were 15, and face the possibility of being separated for the first time, such is the ruthlessness of the AFL draft.
But there is plenty of speculation the two could end up together, with Gold Coast set to take Kade at pick five and Jake at No.27.
However, Jake said the boys and their family were preparing to part ways when they attend the draft on the Gold Coast with dad, mum Sharon, older sister Emma, 21, maternal grandparents and five aunts and uncles.
“We are prepared actually because it is highly unlikely we are going to go to the same club,” Jake said.
“We are just going to take it as it comes and hopefully we get used to not having each other around.
“We do pretty much everything together. It is going to be very strange if that happens and something we are going to have to get used to and I reckon it will be pretty hard.”
While Kade won’t go so far as to say he and Jake have telepathic communication out on the ground, he said there was a special understanding.
“I think it is just playing with each other for so long. We know each other’s game so well,” Kade said.
“It is just natural.”
“We usually find each other on the field,” he said.
“There was one game in the finals (for Launceston) where Kade gave me the ball nine times.
“There must be something there, I don’t know, instinct or something I’m not sure.”
Paul, who runs a kitchen building business with his wife Sharon, was preparing for an empty nest.
“I think they will handle it quite well,” he said.
“They’ve spoken about it. It might take them a bit but they can always talk to one another on the phone and they’ve got Facebook and everything. They will keep in touch pretty well. Playing against each other — that will be a challenge. That will be a sight to be seen I think.”
At the start of the year, no draft expert had Kade in their top 10 — including those in Tasmania.
It was a late invitation to the AIS-AFL Academy that transformed Kade from talented to elite, Armstrong believes, dragging his twin brother with him.
“From that moment he must have thought, ‘I belong here’,” Armstrong said.
“The confidence and the way he went about it, seriously I haven’t seen a kid change like that.
“The way he’s developed in the last six or eight months has been amazing … and I think Jake has fed off it.
“They are terrific young men, well brought up and a great family background.
“They were both very quiet. They are not going to be the type of players who walk into an AFL club and say, ‘Here I am’. “They will sit in the corner and take it all in and develop from there.”